Mystery of film star death

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The Independent Online
LOS ANGELES - A preliminary autopsy into the death of River Phoenix, the 23-year-old Oscar-nominated actor and teenage heart-throb who collapsed and died outside a Hollywood nightclub, has proved inconclusive, authorities said, writes Phil Reeves.

The cause of his sudden death may not be known until the results of blood and chemical tests, which could take weeks.

Reports were circulating yesterday that Phoenix, one of Hollywood's most promising young talents, died from the effects of drugs, although he had a reputation for clean living and was not known to have a narcotics habit.

Paramedics who rushed to the scene were told that the actor had been taking drugs, said Los Angeles County fire captain, Ray Ribar. 'It was the classic cocaine over-reaction - it just nails some people and stops the heart.' This theory was strengthened still further after the release of a tape-recorded call to the emergency services in which the actor's brother said he thought Phoenix had been 'taking Valium or something'.

Phoenix, who rose to prominence as a teenager for his role in Rob Reiner's hit film Stand By Me, collapsed on the pavement after being helped out of the Viper Room, a West Hollywood nightspot, in the early hours of Sunday. Police said he had earlier been seen acting strangely. The death is being investigated by the Los Angeles Sheriff's Department.